Can You Marinate Chicken Overnight?

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Marinades are used both to add flavor to the outside of the chicken and to tenderize it. The sugar or salt in a marinade acts as a tenderizer, but if an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar, buttermilk or yogurt, is added, it makes the chicken outside crispy when it is cooked.

After getting the right recipe on lock, most people worry about how long to leave their chicken to marinate.

Can you marinate chicken overnight? Well, yes, you can but avoid leaving your chicken to marinate for more than 24 hours.

We will discuss this in detail later in the article. But first, do you know what marinade is and why people use it?

Let’s see!

What Is A Marinade, And Why Use It?

As you may already know, a marinade is a flavorful fluid made with a combination of different spices and herbs in which a cut of meat is placed to tenderize it and/or add flavor and moisture.

There are different types of marinades to choose from, but most can be divided into two basic categories: acidic and enzymatic. They both react differently to the meat.

Acidic marinades use mild acids like vinegar, apple juice, or wine. These acids attack and denature proteins; this causes them to form a microscopic mesh that traps moisture in the meat.

Enzymatic marinades use ingredients like pineapple, guava, or ginger. They break down the meat’s connective tissue and muscle fiber, which helps to tenderize the meat.

Can You Marinate Chicken Overnight?

Can You Marinate Chicken Overnight

Yes, you can marinate chicken overnight, as I mentioned earlier, but there are some things you need to understand while doing this.

Not leaving your chicken to marinate long enough will reduce the amount of imparted flavor. On the other hand, leaving your chicken in an acidic marinade for too long can toughen it up as the protein molecules squeeze closer together.

When a chicken is left in an excessive bath of enzymatic marinade for too long, the meat can become mushy, and you definitely don’t want that.

Chicken has lesser density compared to beef, so soaking it overnight like a thick beef steak might not be the best idea.

But keep in mind that the size of the chicken cut also affects how long a chicken needs to sit in the marinade to absorb maximum flavor.

When marinating an entire chicken, you should allow it to sit for at least 4 hours for decent penetration, but it can be left to soak for as long as 12 hours, depending on the size of the chicken and the type of marinade, in use.

When marinating skinless chicken breast, you can achieve decent flavoring in as little as 30 minutes; you can even quicken up the process if you poke some holes in the surface to allow the marinade to penetrate better.

To achieve an extra tasty result when marinating skinless chicken, you can let it sit for up to 2 hours.

It’s worth noting that chicken thighs contain a lot of meat mass, so it may take anywhere from 1 to 6 hours to properly flavor them.

When marinating any part of the chicken with skin intact, allow it to sit for a minimum of 2 hours to allow the fluid to penetrate the meat.

Here are some recommended marinating times for different pieces of chicken:

  • Whole bird: 4 to 12 hours
  • Skinless, boneless chicken breasts: 30 minutes to 2 hours
  • Chicken breast with skin and bone: 1 to 2 hours.
  • Chicken quarters, thighs, wings: 1 to 6 hours

Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken?

Yes, you can marinate frozen chicken, but the real question is, “should you?” It is not advisable to marinate frozen chicken because how well the frozen meat will absorb your marinade is greatly limited.

Marinating frozen chicken can make the marinade significantly less effective and flavorful as it is watered down when the chicken begins to defrost.

How To Marinate Chicken (Safety Tips)

When working with raw meat, it is essential that you follow necessary safety procedures. Handle your chicken carefully, and ensure to wash your hands before and after handling the chicken to prevent cross-contamination.

All unused marinade should be tossed out once it has been in contact with the raw meat, as some of the bacteria on the meat may find their way into the marinade as it soaks.

This does not mean the chicken is unsafe to eat because when you cook it, all of the bacteria are killed, but you need to be careful with the leftover marinade.

You also need to choose the right kind of container to marinate your chicken in. You can use plastic resealable bags, glass containers, and reusable plastic containers, but do not close them tightly.

However, avoid the use of aluminum as the acids in the marinade may react with the metal, which will negatively affect the flavor and color of the chicken.

Do not leave your chicken to marinate on the countertop; always marinate in the refrigerator. Maintaining a consistent low temperature will help keep the meat safe until it’s time to cook and prevent bacteria-borne illness.


Knowing the right amount of time to allow your chicken to marinate has a significant impact on how flavorful your chicken turns out to be.

The question “can you marinate chicken overnight? Is one that needs to be answered before you begin marinating your chicken, as you don’t want to leave your chicken for too long or not enough time.

Yes, you can marinate chicken overnight, but this depends on the type of cut you are using.

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